Cornwell fans might see his move into the world of Elizabethan theater as a departure, yet this latest venture is as dramatic, exciting, well researched and romantic as the Saxon tales. His enthusiasm for the subject shines through the pages as readers are drawn into Richard Shakespeare’s (yes, William had a brother) life and the writing and performing of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We view the intense enmity between the brothers, The Globe Theater’s rivalry with The Swan, the actors’ jealousies and the vibrantly colorful, politically charged era though the dynamic dialogue, vivid narrative and emotional depth. This exciting portrait of Shakespeare’s world may remind some of Shakespeare in Love or the TNT television series Will, but it is what Cornwell fans crave: an opportunity to be swept into another world.

After years of estrangement and mistreatment at the school he attended, Richard Shakespeare heads for London and his brother’s playhouse. He is already a skilled thief, a skill learned from his school’s headmaster, so surviving in the city should be easy. But Richard craves more — a place as an actor. The first roles he’s given are female parts, which Richard views as a hateful joke played on him by his brother, William. As rehearsal of the latest play begins, one written for Lord Chamberlain’s wedding, Richard is finally given a male lead’s role, but it’s not what he envisioned. (HARPER, Jan., 384 pp., $27.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin